Essay about Edna’s Search for Solitude in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Edna’s Search for Solitude in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Home from a summer at Grand Isle, separated from the company of an agreeable and, eventually beloved, companion and in the stifling company of a disagreeable, oblivious husband, Edna Pontellier sees her home, her garden, her fashionable neighborhood as "an alien world which had suddenly become antagonistic" (76). When she is left alone in the house, she thrills to the sensation of free time and space, the chance to explore, investigate, to see her house in its own light. To eat in peace without her husband's trifling complaints, to read until sleepy, to rest is a luxury which convention, her husband and her own complicity had denied her. She slept well, "now that her time was
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Her unexpected, violent response comes at a time when her relationship with Robert is still blunted by her docile affection for Leonce; there is yet no thrill of love to heighten or free her senses, but a gradual opening of space. Edna's marriage had created a sort of comfortable barrier, a finite space where sharp emotions of any kind were alien. From this dull and certain possession of her faculties, Edna is thrust toward emotional freedom by the music, as if shaken free of some weight. Following the catharsis of Reisz's playing, Edna is drawn to the sea, ever before a source of "ungovernable dread," and discovers that she can swim with little effort (49). She has come to govern her dread, gaining power over her own fear and gaining an imperfect freedom of movement, imperfect in that she knows a moment of great fear when she realizes the literal space she has put between herself and the shore - to be totally alone is not yet purely thrilling. But at the same time, the sea beyond her swimming ability seems a barrier "which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome." What follows is "a quick vision of death" which "smote her soul," for she was trapped between the dread of loneliness and the promise of solitude, without

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